COVID-19 Consumer Snapshot

Upon the announcement of a global pandemic, direct marketers ran to the drawing board to develop crisis marketing strategies to cushion their brand from the impact of shifting consumer behaviors. But to truly rise to the challenge of driving brand loyalty and commerce in this unprecedented environment, marketers must understand how consumers are responding financially, and what they expect from their most trusted brands right now.

During the last few weeks, GlobalWebIndex has released results from three surveys of more than 14,000 internet users across 17 countries, age 16-64.  The snapshot below shares key insights from the reports related to U.S. consumer behavior and sentiment surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Significant Impacts Expected, Yet Optimism Remains

Although U.S. consumers are expecting the virus outbreak to be lengthy and have a significant impact on the economy, 1 in 2 respondents are optimistic we will recover on both a national and global level.

  • 83% are concerned about the coronavirus situation both in the U.S., and globally.
  • 69% expect the coronavirus to have some impact on their personal/household finances, but only 31% expect that impact to be big/dramatic.
  • 52% expect the coronavirus to last more than 6 months in the U.S.

Focus on Home Life and Essentials

While spending weeks or even months at home to reduce exposure and virus spread, 40% of U.S. consumers have increased their online shopping and 87% have increased media consumption.

Those who indicated they are spending more time shopping online have focused their purchases on fundamental items such as groceries, household essentials and personal care products, and are shopping less for gifts for themselves or others. Around 68% of respondents said they are planning to delay big purchases until the outbreak is over, and 50% are cutting back on their daily purchases. Items topping the delayed purchasing list include travel, clothing and vehicles. When the virus shows signs of containment in the U.S., 37% consumers plan to purchase the items they have postponed.

In an effort to stay connected to the situation, more than 50% of respondents affirmed they are spending significantly more time watching broadcast television and streaming online programs and video content. 56% are using social media and messaging apps more frequently, 39% are spending more time cooking, and 33% are finding more time to enjoy their general hobbies.

Although many consumers are taking advantage of their time at home binging their favorite shows or scrolling through social channels, health and wellness is still a priority. During the pandemic, 82% reported they are engaging in some form of home fitness. Outdoor activities such as cycling, jogging and walks are most popular, while 1 in 4 indicated they are utilizing home exercise equipment or participating in live-stream classes.

Looking past the crisis, 27% of respondents indicated they expect to exercise at home more frequently and 31% will increase their online shopping once social distancing and stay at home orders have expired. The top five items they intend to purchase online for delivery or pickup include:

  • Household essentials and personal care products (both 20%)
  • Food/grocery products (18%)
  • Clothes (17%)
  • Personal electronics (14%)

Impartial Towards Advertising

Generally, consumers approve of how brands are responding to the situation. However, favorable responses jump when messaging is specific to the COVID-19 outbreak. More than 60% of U.S. consumers approve of brands running campaigns focused on:

  • Brand response to the crisis, including customer help and support
  • Funny/light-hearted and entertaining content
  • Practical information and tips to deal with the situation
  • Promotional offers and loyalty perks for customers

In addition to seeking updates on the coronavirus situation in their community, country and world, global consumers indicated their desire for the following from brands:

  • 35% are interested in tips to stay healthy and active
  • 32% are looking for positive stories about reactions to the coronavirus
  • 25% are seeking financial advice
  • 24% want ideas for home entertainment

When asked if they approve of brands running “normal” advertising campaigns, 49% of respondents agree “normal” advertising campaigns are fine, and 38% are impartial. Three out of four approve of brands continuing to sell non-essential items online. Nearly 80% approve of brands running promotions and 3 out of 4 approve of flexible payment terms and lower cost versions of products. Respondents also admit promotions or offers may compel them to purchase the items they have delayed due to the outbreak, while more than half have indicated free delivery is more important to them than before.

SeQuel’s Perspective

The insights above reflect an understandable concern for the crisis and economy among consumers. It is essential that brands are mindful and empathetic to the evolving financial and emotional stress this situation inflicts on their customers and prospects.

Although consumers are seemingly apathetic to traditional advertising messaging, growth marketers should take this opportunity to assess their brand’s unique customer value and marketing strategy. The purchasing behaviors and priorities shared above could provide favorable market conditions for brands positioned for home fitness, home delivery, household essentials/supplies and subscriptions, streaming services, messaging/virtual engagement apps, insurance products and more. Others could pivot to targeting existing customers with loyalty and promotional offers. If you are a DTC marketer, consider the captive audience of homebound consumers and provide quality direct mail offers that your customers will appreciate. Still another consideration would be an integrated direct mail and digital approach to stay connected while we are apart.

One thing is for certain: when our country and the economy does reopen, pent up consumer demand will erupt and brands who have stationed themselves to capture this latent demand will be the best positioned to support the resurgence of buyers.  As we continue to navigate the coronavirus pandemic and get closer to fully reopening the country, we recommend marketers continue to pivot and execute thoughtful and relevant marketing campaigns.


We hope you find this information valuable as you assess your DTC marketing strategies in the coming days and weeks. The SeQuel team is happy to discuss how your direct marketing strategy can weather today’s coronavirus crisis, and even scale following the outbreak if you have campaigns that are currently paused. You can also find more articles related to the impact of COVID-19 on the direct marketing industry on our blog.


Posted 4.9.2020, Updated 5.5.2020